2/16/2013 4:35 P.M. ET
Astros hitters set to face live pitching
By Brian McTaggart / MLB.com
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros hitters will get their first look at live pitching during workouts Sunday, when the pitchers will throw to batters with a screen in front of the mound. There will be four days of live batting practice before manager Bo Porter holds an intrasquad game on Thursday.
"I just want the pitchers to make it through safe," Porter said. "That's more pitching practice than live batting practice. Whenever you incorporate screens and the backstops, that's always been tough on the position players. It's more about the pitchers than anything else. It does all those guys good to see a live arm and pick up the velocity on the baseball."
The team will meet with the Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday and hold a light workout in advance of Saturday's Grapefruit League opener against the Phillies in Clearwater. Porter said the real evaluating of the players won't begin for a while.
"Right now I'm honing on guys' workouts," he said. "When you get to the beginning stages of Spring Training and you don't have the competition aspect of another team, you want to watch guys and see how they work. You watch them from a fundamental standpoint and see if anyone needs extra, extra, extra work as far as a particular fundamental."
Porter stressed fundamentals to his club again on Friday, saying that in the American League, teams don't usually bunt until they're behind late in the game. He said it's vital teams get outs on those plays to increase their chances of winning.
"You increase your chances of winning the game when you execute these plays properly," he said. "It puts an emphasis on it, and the players actually understand the significance."
Crane addresses Astros before first workout
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Astros owner Jim Crane addressed the club prior to the first full-squad workout on Saturday, along with general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager Bo Porter.
"I gave them a little bit of my background," Crane said. "A lot of these guys we hadn't met before. Some of the guys were here from last year. [I told them] I started at the bottom and played some baseball, and I know enough to be dangerous. I treat people like I want to be treated, and we're going to give them all the tools they need to be successful."
With new uniforms, a new atmosphere developed by Porter and his people in place now for more than a year, Crane finally has a ballclub he can call his own.
"Certainly our fingerprints are all over this now and all the changes we made are our changes," Crane said. "Bo told them this and I told them this: Neither one of us have lost in anything we've done, and we're not going to start now. We're expecting to turn this into a winner, starting today."
Crane was accompanied by his attorney and Floridian National Golf Club president Giles Kibbe. Crane spent a couple of hours at the facility before flying back to Palm City. Crane told MLB.com he was expecting to play golf Sunday with President Barack Obama, who is spending the weekend at the Floridian.
Elmore has shown an ability to get on base
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- With the Astros putting more emphasis on analytics than ever before under general manager Jeff Luhnow, it's not surprising they scooped up infielder Jake Elmore on waivers from the D-backs last November.
Elmore has been an on-base machine in the Minor Leagues, posting a .388 career on-base percentage in 524 career Minor League games. He has 273 walks and only 266 strikeouts in 2,104 career plate appearances in the Minors.
"I like to think I'm blessed with good eyes to see spin and lay off pitches," said Elmore, who made his Major League debut in 2012 and appeared in 30 games for the D-backs. "One of the things I can always relate to is my first year in rookie ball, the hitting coach asked me what a good at-bat was for me."
Elmore said getting a base hit or maybe hitting the ball hard before the coach gave him his answer.
"He said 'If you put a strike in play,'" Elmore said. "There's nothing any hitting coach can teach you if you swing at a ball. It kind of stuck with me, and I'm proud of myself for putting strikes in play and nothing else."
Elmore, who was a college teammate of Brett Wallace at Arizona State, was thrilled when the Astros grabbed him.
"It's good to be wanted," he said. "When you're put on waivers by the Diamondbacks and the Astros have the very first selection on the waiver wire and get you, you're like, 'Alright, that shows confidence.' Obviously, they're rebuilding a little bit. There's going to be some opportunities there, and hopefully you'll be able to take advantage."
• Another new feature in the Osceola County clubhouse this year is the presence of small mirrors on each of the players' lockers. The mirrors are more symbolic than they are practical and serve as a reminder for each player to take accountability for his action.
"It starts with the man in the mirror," said manager Bo Porter, who has also encouraged players to bring music into the clubhouse and has had food delivered after workouts.
• Right-hander Hector Ambriz, who rolled his ankle Saturday while stepping on first base, remains day to day after X-rays revealed no structural damage. Porter said the swelling was subsiding, and Ambriz remained in a walking boot, though he no longer requires crutches.
• Catcher Max Stassi, who has been held out of drills for three days with a strained oblique, was able to perform some drills Saturday and continues to improve. He was acquired by the Astros from the A's on Feb. 4.
• The only player who wasn't on the field Saturday morning was infielder Jose Martinez, who was scheduled to arrive in the area later in the day. He had been held up on visa issues, and Porter expected him on the field Sunday.